I am not at the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in Portland, Oregon but I have been watching through social media and the video stream when I’m able. It has been stressful to watch so much fighting among people who I greatly respect and even admire. Today has, by far, been the worse.
It all started during the night when rumors were released by the Love You Neighbor Coalition (LYNC – a group which advocates for LGBTQ inclusion) which claimed that the Council of Bishops were set to announce a plan for schism which would divide the UMC into liberal, progressive, and centrist factions. This afternoon the President of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Bruce Ough (pronounced “Oh”) addressed General Conference to deny these rumors and say that the rumors were the result of conversations that the Bishops have, indeed, had (from his tone, I speculate these conversations were no different than conversations many people within the UMC have been having) but that nothing pertaining to separation or schism was going to be presented or advocated by the Council of Bishops. In short, the rumors were pure bunk.
Assuming all of this is correct, I have to say that I feel that this was nothing but a publicity stunt perpetrated by LYNC. Personally I find such stunts pulled by any kind of special interest group of any kind to be sickening. These people have played and heightened the fears of many within and without the General Conference and I can not denounce their actions enough.
I don’t have time for games and neither should they.
I have no time or desire to play these games when we have a world with hurting people in it. We have people who desperately need the gospel and when I’m trying to figure out how best to reach out to them, I don’t have time for games. I don’t have time for games when I live and serve in a county with one of the highest rates of poverty and drug addiction in the state of Kentucky. I don’t have time for games when I have people within my congregation who I am trying to care for when they are sick, dying, or uncertain about their faith. I don’t have time for such games when there are people who have been harmed by the church and those within it who I am trying to show love to.
If you feel that you have time for such games, I encourage you to check yourself.
I am one of the people in the center of this debate where I believe we can find a way to coexist in spite of our differences. Unfortunately, people in the center are not being heard because those at the extreme ends of the homosexual issue insist on being heard because it’s “our way or no way.” My desire is for the table and those at it to be increased, not hindered in any way. I don’t have the answers but I hold to the hope that a way to coexist can be found. In Being United Methodist in the Bible Belt, F. Belton Joyner used the analogy of the church being intended to be a large bus with lots of people on it as opposed to a two-seater convertible with “just me and Jesus.” We need to strive to keep it that way.
Even if the bus is a double-decker, the point is we would still be on the same bus.
I have not been a Methodist all my life (my wife gets the blame or the credit for bringing me to the UMC); I grew up in a church within the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) which broke off from the PCUSA way back when. I’ve seen first hand the damage and the scars which are left from such splits. I constantly heard comments like, “those liberals are ruining that other church, I’m glad we left. We don’t want them here.” If the UMC splits and further fractures the body of Christ, such is what awaits us. I can not, in good conscience, support any talk of a split when I still feel that it can be avoided.
Let’s stop playing games, spreading silly rumors, and let’s stop the nastiness toward one another. Let’s work for unity and the good of the Body. Let’s be the church and stop the foolishness.
Submitted for what it’s worth,